Kenya judicial crisis hits stabilty

2011-02-02 22:29

Nairobi - Kenya's prime minister played down concerns that the coalition cabinet would collapse over a dispute about judicial appointments with the president but warned there could be instability ahead of elections in 2012.

President Mwai Kibaki provoked a political storm by nominating senior judicial figures, with Prime Minister Raila Odinga accusing Kibaki of violating the country's new constitution by not consulting him.

The row has divided Kenya along the tribal fault lines that fuelled lethal violence following the disputed general election of December 2007.

Odinga declared the judicial nominations void and said Kibaki's action had plunged Kenya into a constitutional crisis, straining the coalition to near breaking point.

But on Wednesday he said the government would survive.

"We are acting with a lot of restraint because we don't want to give the impression that this government is going to collapse," Odinga told journalists.

"People have fears the government will collapse, I don't have any such fears. These quarrels you see [are] politicking and it does not mean the government is about to fall. I don't think we are at a stage where the country is likely to erupt."

Public confidence

The judicial nominations are meant to improve public confidence in the judiciary and support Kenya's case for holding trials of those suspected of orchestrating the post-election violence in Kenya instead of at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The speaker of parliament will decide on Thursday if lawmakers can vote to confirm the nominations.

Odinga said his concern was that Kibaki could unilaterally name officials to the body that will oversee next year's election.

"We are dealing with this issue now to avoid it happening to the electoral commission," he said.

Analysts say Kibaki has chosen to back Odinga's rivals in next year's election and is increasingly isolating Odinga.

Despite his frustrations, Odinga said he would not pull out of the cabinet, an act that could lead to snap elections.

"We cannot take Kenya to the polls now because the ground has not been fully prepared," he said. The country needs new electoral officials and must delineate several fresh constituencies as required by the new constitution, he said.

Odinga said even if the cabinet remained united after the dispute over the nominations, the bad blood could be a catalyst for violence at next year's polls.

"My fear is the tone and conduct of our politics. We have hit that route again, [which] creates the impression that as a nation, we are unpredictable, unstable and therefore unsafe as an investment destination," Odinga said.